Following on from last week’s unveiling of denim guru Sue Barrett’s Lockdown Nostalgia Project, here’s the second installment of highlights, with focus on another group of denim experts and their most cherished denim pieces.
Life in lockdown has afforded most of us more time to rediscover denim treasures hiding in our wardrobes. Seizing the opportunity, London-based trend forecaster and denim figure Sue Barrett went about gathering some of the industry’s key figures, inviting them to introduce their beloved denim garments and reflect on the industry’s past and present.
Said Barrett: “The authentic beauty of denim – and what it was originally about – gave me the idea of getting people to remember their denim favourites and the importance of great classics. I also encouraged my friends to suggest ways of making better quality denim for life, using today’s technologies. Another important part of the project is the denim community itself and what it means to us all.”
The Lockdown Nostalgia Project is an extensive, industry-wide affair – due to be published on Sue Barrett’s soon to launch blog. It features multifaceted denim stories from some of the industry’s most experienced players. Highlights from the first crop were presented last week in part one, with focus on one single garment per denim expert. Here, a new cluster of names open up their vintage archives.
David Tring, Vice President, Product, Kontoor Brands, Asia Pacific
“I took two pairs of the same Wrangler Jean straight out of the factory in 2002 – I view them like a pair of brothers. One of them I kept in its original, fresh out of the factory raw state – never worn and never washed, as if stuck in its own time warp. The other I have worn, and worn, and worn and repaired and worn and so on for the last eighteen years. It was and still is a project to chart and document how jeans change and become a map of how we have lived. It’s a reflection on my wearing habits – the good, the bad, and all that goes with it. I call the project “from birth to destruction.” When I do my annual university visits across Europe and Asia to meet young designers and merchandisers, I use the “brothers” to show them that jeans are not just for a season but can be for life – after all, the most sustainable jean you have is the one in your wardrobe, you just have to wear and repair and take care of it.”
David Tring’s Wrangler brothers
“If I could go back in time, the first thing I would do is change the fabric to be organic. The original fabric is a broken twill, invented by the Wrangler Engineer John Neil Walker in 1962. The great thing about it is its softness. You could add a small percentage of polyester, derived from recycled PET bottles, and a little carbon from rescued jade stone (from the jewelry industry) to create a breathable and wicking fabric with a cool touch – the sort of denim innovations you need when it’s +35 degrees and humidity in the high ’90s, like here in Asia.”
Sinem Celik, Founder of Blu Projects
“I have a very emotional relationship with this beautifully made Nudie Jeans shirt, crafted from organic 14oz denim. I bought it in the brand’s Gothenburg store in 2007, during the early stages of my denim journey. I could barely afford it in those days but I’ve treasured it ever since.”
“At the beginning of my career as a textile engineer, I cherished the collaborative spirit during meetings with designers, wash experts and other denim creatives. In those days, we’d all sit together and try to create from scratch. Everyone was eager to share amazing knowledge – including Sue Barrett who consulted with me at Orta Anadolu for 15 years. Things weren’t as competitive, and we didn’t experience the same time pressures or even price concerns. The number of jeans produced may have been fewer, but equally, not as many ended up in landfill… This gave us the chance to use precious time in the best way to ensure really valuable product development. I consider myself lucky to have experienced the industry back then – before fast fashion hit the denim scene. With the pressure of budgets and time restrictions, the mood has changed a bit, and community members’ behavior, too, as people are pushed to compete.”
Sinem Celik’s treasured Nudie jeans shirt
“In the past, fabrics were used for durability and consumers bought jeans as more of a seasonless product. If I were to update those fabrics, I would up the comfort-factor, combing the authenticity and beauty of traditional denim with sustainable Tencel. As for color and construction, I’d revert to denim the way it was before the high-elasticity athleisure trend hit. Sometimes I question myself – why widen the use of denim? Again, sales pressures play a role, as people are looking for new ways of using denim. But to me, denim is denim.”
Tony Tonnaer, Founder, Kings of Indigo, Amsterdam
“The jean that means the most to me is the first K.O.I style we made in a 14oz Collect Japan fabric with Eletti Group Italy in 2013. It has a cotton warp and a white recycled cotton weft, dyed in 100% redcast indigo. We made this in the regular fit style Louis. I have about six pairs, all in different worn-in stages, and they are ready for another 10 years of true denim enjoyment. They are my favorite jeans and I wear them more than any other style. The cut is perfect – not too loose, not too slim – and they wear in really well. The jean in the picture is the very first one to be released, so it’s pretty battered and has been repaired a few times, ready for another round.”
“It has 100% organic open twill pocketing, in ticking-stripe and placement, as well as half lined back pockets and coin pocket. I love the K.O.I carp embroidery inside the right back pocket. Once worn in, it’ll be visible from the outside.”
Tony Tonnaer’s ultimate K.O.I pair
“I love it because it feels like the perfect combination of fit, fabric and own brand, created the first season my partner Khoi joined me from Kuyichi. It also marks the first time we used Japanese denim at K.O.I, and we’ve never found a better sustainable fabric in Japan – it’s not easy to find organic or recycled fabrics in Japan.”
Carme Santacruz, Creative Director, Jeanologia
“When Sue Barrett asked me to choose a piece from my heart, I knew it had to be this lasered baby romper. Made using lasered leftovers, it was handcrafted by a friend for my son Ricard. At Jeanologia, we reuse every single scrap of material, and my friend opted for a lightweight, striped indigo fabric for the romper. It was a personalized gift, and one of my son’s very first denim outfits.”
“This special piece might not be valuable in terms of price, but it’s everything to me. It represents values and important memories of my life and denim journey – passion, sustainability, innovation, friendship and family. It may not be an inspirational vintage garment as such, but it has great personal and sentimental value, and it’s an innovative product as it’s made from lasered upcycled fabric.”
Carme Santacruz’s denim archive favorite – a baby romper gifted to her son.
“In my opinion, denim’s uniqueness lies in its versatility and many facets. It went from workwear to a cult symbol of youth and even luxury, but it’s always maintained its essence. The denim community is united by passion and a devotion to denim. And now, more than ever, this brotherhood must be collaborative and centered on sustainability in order to face the new times.”
Gordon Muir, Denim Consultant, Hiroshima, Japan
“My first special vintage piece was bought at a very special time – 1998. I’d been living in Italy since ’95, working for Adriano Goldschmied and Piero Turk at Team Kit in Asolo. After years of seeing the best denim come into the studio, it was time for me to experience Japan and its vintage shopping scene. “Boon” and “Popeye” magazines were the coolest titles at the time, so I knew which stores in Tokyo and Osaka to hit. Having arrived, I walked around with my eyes popping and my tongue hanging out – I’d experienced nothing like it. In Harajuku, I came across Teardrop, the smallest vintage store I’d ever seen. It was the width of garage shutter door, with an amazing selection of vintage denim and sweatshirts stacked up. I really liked two pieces – a 1950s sweatshirt and a pair of jeans – a Levi’s XX hidden rivet. I loved how the piece was patched and repaired, and the fade and wash were very unique. I didn’t have enough cash to buy both and didn’t speak any Japanese back then so couldn’t ask to have them put aside. After a restless night’s sleep, I went back and walked away a happy man with my jeans and sweatshirt.”
Gordon Muir’s Levis’ XX in close-up
“So how would I update the jeans if given the chance? It would be great to do a modern sustainable version of it, with fewer dips to achieve a lighter indigo shade. This way we’d be able create brighter, lighter summer shades without all the chemicals needed. We’d use laser for the processing, then go for embroidery with indigo threads to bring it back together again, giving the patch and repairs a feel of the “untouchable” –just like the original.”
Ebru Ozaydin, Senior Vice President Sales + Marketing, Artistic Milliners Pvt Ltd, New York
“A firm favorite of mine is a pair of worn-out jeans from A.P.C.’s Butler Program, whereby customers are encouraged to bring back old pairs and exchange them for new ones. I prefer dark or medium, worn-in washes, natural hi-lo contrast and 501 type of fits, as these remind me of my college years in the 1990s…At the time, my mom lived in Brussels and she was buying all my Levi’s jeans. Later, I regularly visited Brussels myself as part of my job, as Levi’s HQ was based there. Therefore, apart from its iconic fit, it has sentimental value connected to the early days of my denim career.”
“If I were to improve these jeans, I’d add 15-20% elasticity as this would give the perfect level of comfort. Furthermore, I’d opt for sustainable or recycled fibers, such as organic or post consumer waste (PCW) cotton and degradable spandex and a clean indigo process dye. PCW might give a subtle mélange-y aspect, but I believe it would look very cool. Most people may still prefer conventional wash techniques, especially dry processes for authenticity, along with laser with NO PP and/or No Stone for a low-impact pair. This is the new definition of super sustainable jeans.”
Ebru Ozaydin’s favorite pair by A.P.C
“I like to wear these jeans with a particular khaki Korps Mariniers military jacket. It’s made from a herringbone lightweight fabric and it fits perfectly. It reminds me of a memorable market trip with Sue Barrett, digging around in piles of vintage in search of inspirational denim treasures. We travelled from Tokyo to Stockholm and on to Rose Bowl in Pasadena, then ending up in London. Atelier Jeanne Valet in Daikanyama, Tokyo, was one of the stores we spent hours in. It’s such a unique shop, playing Nordic Arias all day…I can still hear those tunes.”